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No holds barred? EU Data Retention Directive declared invalid by the Court of Justice

09 April 2014

Mason Hayes & Curran Technology Law Blog

by Jevan Neilan, Associate

The Court of Justice of the European Union (the “Court”), in response to questions submitted from Austria and Ireland, has found the European Data Retention Directive to be invalid. The decision comes a number of months after a similar Opinion by the Advocate General, an influential yet independent adviser to the Court. Both the Advocate General and the Court considered the Directive to be incompatible with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. In particular, the Court found the Directive posed a serious interference with the rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data.

How did the decision come about?

European law permits national courts to submit questions to the Court on the interpretation of EU legislation. The Irish High Court referred questions from a case taken by Digital Rights Ireland, an organisation dedicated to defending civil, human and legal rights in a digital context.

The questions concerned the validity of the 2006 Data Retention Directive, which obliged Member States to introduce laws compelling the storage of telecommunications data. The Directive required the collection and retention of traffic and location data by companies such as mobile and broadband providers for a period of up to two years. However, content data, including email or SMS content, did not need to be retained.

What did the Court decide?